Medicine stopped being symptom-based over 50 years ago but psychology still uses it. Little is known about why or how the brain works the way it does, much less personality variation, so if a psychological therapy works, it works.

Acupuncture is touted by alternative medicine practitioners as being effective for a few ailments and it is - often up to 29 percent of the time. When the issue is psychological the cure can be also and so a new epidemiological analysis from China compared the clinical efficacy of acupuncture/electroacupuncture with oral antidepressants in improving depressive symptoms. The authors found that acupuncture was more effective than oral antidepressants in improving depressive symptoms and produced fewer side effects than tricyclic antidepressants.

When alternative medicine is found effective in double-blind clinical trials, it becomes regular medicine, and acupuncture will probably never be that, but since the issue is depression, which lacks any known cause, alternative/synergistic therapies are worth a look and if they are effective 20 percent of the time, so be it. Treatment outcome in the case of pharmacology is not great either and no one ever shot up a movie theater after being on acupuncture. 

Prof. Yong Huang and the team from Southern Medical University in China compared the clinical efficacy of acupuncture/electroacupuncture with the antidepressant drug Seroxat alone and in combination with acupuncture using the Symptom Checklist-90. They determined that administration of Seroxat alone or in combination with acupuncture/electroacupuncture can produce a significant effect in patients with primary unipolar depression.

They also found that acupuncture/electroacupuncture had a rapid onset of therapeutic effect and produces a noticeable improvement in obsessive-compulsive, depressive and anxiety symptoms. 

The authors say their epidemiological study addressing depression found that poor recognition and treatment are largely linked to the lack of an accurate assessment tool and to patients' economic situation.

Published in Neural Regeneration Research